Holed Up

Up to Trouble Book One

Holed Up Cover
Part of the Up to Trouble series:

FBI Special Agent Aaron Pearce, tall, muscular, a lone wolf with an attitude, is assigned to protect Mark Beecher, a witness to the plans for a terrorist attack. The discovery of an unknown informant within the FBI's ranks, however, forces the two men to hole up in a loft apartment with only one another for company.

After long conversations and their shared attempt to unravel the puzzle of the terrorist group's next target, Pearce and Mark find they cannot deny their mutual attraction. Pearce gives in to his passion, sleeping with the man he's sworn to protect and going against his training as he risks heartbreak once again.

When the informant reveals himself to Pearce and takes him hostage, Mark finds he cannot run and leave Pearce to die. Instead, their roles have been reversed and now he is the only person who can save Special Agent Pearce.

Excerpt:

Pearce leaned in close, and for a thrillingly horrifying second Mark thought the man intended to kiss him. But instead, the agent said loud enough for only Mark to hear over the braying fire alarm: “It’s okay, I’ll get you out of here. Just stay close to me, okay?”

Mark nodded, and Pearce looked away, scanning the room and the other agents. Finally, he heard Pearce ask Agent Bata, “Is there a freight elevator in this building?”

Bata nodded and motioned for Pearce to follow. Pearce turned and leaned in close again, closer than before, and whispered into Mark’s ear, “Follow me. We’re going to the freight elevator. If anything happens, stay with me, no one else. Got it?”

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Mark shivered at the wet heat of Pearce’s breath and cursed the swiftness of his erection despite the situation. He nodded and, adjusting his messenger bag to hide his condition, followed Pearce as Bata led them down the hallway, both agents with guns drawn. A few steps down the hall, Pearce turned and motioned over Mark’s shoulder for the other two agents, the ones who had been guarding the door, to stay behind.

Mark followed Pearce and Bata through the crowd of agents and directors dutifully making their way to the exits. The fire alarm buzzed, and at certain spots along the wall, strobe lights flashed. They exited the office through a secured employee entrance and found themselves in the main elevator lobby. There were two stairwells in the building, and the evacuating crowds flooded both. Lines of vaguely anxious people had formed at each stairwell as they waited for those on the lower floors to clear out. Pearce reached back and grabbed Mark by the arm, pulling him along behind as he shouldered his way through the slowing crowd. Mark followed and tried not to think about the man’s strong grip and how it might feel on his cock.

Around the corner from one of the stairwells, Agent Bata stopped at a large gray elevator door. “Here, this is the freight elevator.” He pressed the call button and turned to find Pearce’s gun in his face. “What? What are you doing?”

“Hey!” Mark exclaimed and tried to step forward, but Pearce held him back.

“Quiet,” Pearce said without looking at him. “Bata, holster your weapon and step back from the elevator.”

“He’s been helping me since I came to the FBI,” Mark protested, and Pearce grabbed him by the front of his T-shirt and pulled him around to press him up against the wall beside the doors to the freight elevator, never taking his eyes off Bata.

Bata raised his hand holding the gun and slowly placed the weapon in his shoulder holster. “It’s okay, Mark. I understand what Special Agent Pearce is doing.”

“It’s nothing personal, Bata,” Pearce said.

The elevator sounded its arrival and Mark jumped. Pearce pushed him into the elevator car and backed in after him, his gun still leveled at Bata. “I just don’t know who I can trust around here.”

Mark looked out at Agent Bata with wide, frightened eyes as Pearce pressed the button for the third floor. As the elevator doors closed, Pearce locked his gaze on Bata’s and said, “I’ll be in touch.”

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Shacked Up

Up to Trouble Book Two

Shacked Up Cover
Part of the Up to Trouble series:

FBI Special Agent Aaron Pearce is recovering from his injuries suffered while on assignment in Detroit, stuck in the offices of the FBI running database searches for agents in the field. He is bored and edgy, and takes it out on those closest to him, including Mark Beecher, who lives with him.

While Mark cannot deny the heat between them, he struggles to find his place in Washington, DC, and in Pearce's apartment. He notices a car following him back and forth to work and panics, certain it's the terrorist mole Robert Morgan who escaped them in Detroit.

As Mark and Pearce try to identify the driver, Pearce is drawn into an investigation concerning the disappearance of data discs from government employees. During research, he discovers the catering company where Mark works may be at the root of the thefts, and, when the company is booked to cater a prestigious party, Pearce realizes it is the perfect setup for an undercover operation. He doesn't think twice about disobeying orders to stay out of the field, and risks not only his career, but his life as well, to join Mark in an undercover operation that will change their lives forever.

Excerpt:

Mark woke up to the smell of bacon and eggs. He sighed and rolled over in bed, pressing his hard-on into the mattress and his face into Pearce’s pillow. The sheets on Pearce’s side of the bed were still a little warm against his bare skin, and he breathed in the man’s scent from the pillowcase. It was the same scent he had first noticed back in January, when Pearce had pushed him into a freight elevator in the FBI’s Detroit office. At that moment, Mark had simultaneously hated and wanted Pearce, and now, just a few months later, here he was, living with the man.

Life was strange.

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Mark rolled onto his back and stared at the ceiling. Pearce’s ceiling. Pearce’s bed. Pearce’s apartment. Mark’s belongings still sat in boxes stacked in the spare room. Some weekend soon, when Mark wasn’t working a party, he planned to sort through his things. Maybe grab some CDs for his car. If he was lucky, maybe Pearce would invite him to unpack some stuff, add a few items to the apartment. Hell, Pearce might even suggest Mark add his CDs to the collection in the living room. Not mix them together—nothing that crazy—but maybe get a shelf or two of his own.

He had found it was tricky to know where he could place things in the apartment. Pearce was a territorial animal; Mark had seen that when he had added his toiletries to the bathroom. Pearce had come along after him and rearranged things in the medicine cabinet and on the countertop. The man seemed to have his apartment ordered just as he liked, and Mark couldn’t help feeling like an intruder. If only Pearce would help him figure out where he could put some things, maybe clear off more than one or two shelves for him. But each time Mark asked, Pearce would make noncommittal sounds of agreement and never follow through.

Pearce had been nodding off on the sofa when Mark had gotten home last night just after eleven. The drive home had been uneventful; Mark hadn’t noticed anyone following him, and he was exhausted from working the dinner party with Audra and Brenda. Darlene had had to go home and take care of her daughter.

Mark had touched Pearce’s shoulder to wake him, and the man got to his feet, eyes still glassy with sleep. They hugged, shared a quick kiss, and went to bed together. No mention of the red Escort or the daily frustrations at the job. Just two exhausted people living together and trying to make it work.

Now Mark’s cock pulsed, and before he could reach down to take hold of himself, the bedroom door eased open. Mark raised his head and squinted in that direction, smiling at the blurry vision of Pearce peering in at him around the door.

“Morning, sleepyhead,” Pearce said and stepped into the room. “Well, I see not all of you is a sleepyhead.”

Mark chuckled and stretched, arching his back and pushing his hard-on up against the thin sheet. He could feel the damp spot of precum soaking into the material. After the stretch, he turned his head to smile up at Pearce, who had moved around to stand over him on his side of the bed. Pearce wore a pair of thin cotton sleep pants, the front now tented out with his interest. Mark looked up along Pearce’s bare torso and ran his hand through the dark, trimmed hair that covered Pearce’s flat belly. “Hi, there.”

“Need some help with that?” Pearce asked, his gaze locked on the bulge of Mark’s erection beneath the sheet.

“You know, I could use some help with this.” Mark pulled the sheet away. “It’s so big and awkward, it’s too much for me to handle all on my own.”

Pearce knelt beside the bed and, grinning, leaned in to give Mark a soft kiss on the lips. After backing off a few inches, Pearce smiled at him, then moved down to suck Mark’s nipple, making Mark pull in a quick breath through his teeth. Pearce swirled his tongue around the hardened nub, then drifted lower and parted the dark blond hair on Mark’s chest and belly with his tongue. The whiskers along Pearce’s jaw brushed against Mark’s cock, and he groaned at the sensation. A moment later, the hot width of Pearce’s tongue painted the shaft with saliva from the tip to the root and back again.

When the sudden, wet heat of Pearce’s mouth closed around his cock, Mark gasped and raised his arms over his head to clutch the rails of the headboard.

“Oh God,” Mark groaned. “Now this is a wake-up call.”

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Roughed Up

Up to Trouble Book Three

Roughed Up Cover
Part of the Up to Trouble series:

FBI Special Agent Aaron Pearce and his lover Mark Beecher are taking a well-deserved vacation relaxing on the beaches of Barbados Island. They spend lazy days in the sun, on scooters seeing the sites, or in their hotel room making love.

When Mark sees a young girl in a bar who may be in danger, he begins an informal investigation into her situation, even as Pearce reminds him they are not citizens and have no legal power on the island. Mark is determined, however, and, while investigating on his own, is taken captive by a sex slavery ring.

Pearce panics when Mark goes missing. He has a good idea what happened to Mark and who has taken him, but he cannot prove it. While working with the Barbados Royal Police Force, Pearce realizes he has become the detective’s prime suspect, and understands he needs to conduct his own personal investigation if he has any chance of finding Mark before he is either sold into sex slavery or murdered.

Excerpt:

From the expression on Mark's face, his thoughts had taken a darker turn as well, and Pearce wondered where they had gone. Maybe Mark was feeling the same way Pearce was.

“You okay over there?”

“Huh?” Mark’s gaze was distant behind the lenses of his glasses. “Oh. Yeah. I’m good. Just taking it all in.”

“Yeah? Not thinking about anything in particular?” Pearce speared a bite of fish and looked around for the waiter to order another beer.

Mark shrugged. “Well, maybe. I was thinking about that girl at the bar.” He gave Pearce a small smile. “Can’t get anything past Special Agent Pearce, can I?”

“Sooner you realize that and just say stuff up front, the easier it’ll be for both of us,” Pearce said.

“Yeah, yeah.” Mark shook his head. “I keep thinking about how she tried to talk to me as we were leaving. I can’t figure out what she was trying to tell me.”

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Pearce cocked his head. “She spoke to you?”

Mark widened his eyes. “Didn’t I tell you?”

“No. How did she speak to you? I was right there, and I didn’t hear her.”

“Well, she didn’t actually say anything, not with that guy right there. But she mouthed something to me.”

Pearce took a breath and let it out. “She mouthed something?”

“I knew you wouldn’t believe me,” Mark said.

Pearce shook his head. He was on vacation, damn it, and he didn’t want to get involved in whatever was going on in that run-down bar with that girl who had made bad decisions all her life. But he knew Mark wouldn’t be able to relax for the remainder of their time on the island if they didn’t do something. And besides, now that Mark had brought her up again, Pearce himself was starting to wonder if the girl might be in trouble.

“Do you want to go back there tomorrow?” Pearce tried not to let his minor aggravation come through in his tone.

Mark seemed surprised. “You’d do that with me?”

“If it will help you relax and enjoy the rest of our trip, I would do that with you.”

“Well, yeah, that would be great, actually. Just to see, you know?”

Pearce put his fork down and wiped his mouth. “One condition.”

Mark sat back. “There’s a condition?”

Pearce nodded. “If we go to that bar and she’s not there, do you think you can let it go and enjoy the rest of the trip?”

Mark sighed and slouched in his chair. “Yeah, okay. I see your point.”

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Choked Up

Up to Trouble Book Four

Choked Up Cover
Part of the Up to Trouble series:

Mark Beecher is still recovering from his abduction on Barbados. He and his boyfriend, FBI Special Agent Aaron Pearce, have a lot to process due to those traumatic events, and in the months since, both have experienced accomplishments and setbacks.

When a case in Detroit calls Pearce back to the city where the two met, he grudgingly leaves Mark on his own. The case involves the murders of four gay men, all strangled, and all with a note in one hand. These notes contain clues that point to a case from Pearce's past, and proves what he already fears: Robert Morgan, terrorist mole within the FBI and Pearce's former lover, has invited Pearce back to Detroit to finish things between them.

With Pearce gone, Mark focuses on his recovery, a process that accelerates once he sees a news report from Detroit and realizes the toll this new case is taking on Pearce. Mark decides it's time to stop letting fear control his life. He will join Pearce in Detroit, and together they will stop Morgan once and for all.

Excerpt:

Agent Malak Bata cleared his throat. "Although the city of Detroit has come out of bankruptcy, and the new mayor is fully engaged in bringing the city back, there has been a continuous reshuffling of top police management, and I believe the department is more than happy to hand off as many cases as they possibly can. The Michigan State Police are helping more and more with local law enforcements throughout a number of communities, but their resources are also stretched thin." He reached down to a soft-sided briefcase resting on the floor beside him and extracted several manila case folders. With raised eyebrows, he held up the files. "May I show you what it is we are investigating?"

A stern and frightened voice inside Pearce's head shouted, No! But with growing unease, Pearce felt himself nod and got up to follow Bata to the small round table that took up a corner of Harris's office. His fingertips tingled, and he could hear the blood pounding in his ears.

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Robert Morgan. This had to be about him. It was the only explanation for why both Bata and Harris wanted his help. A ghostly ache started in his right shoulder, the old stab wound delivered by none other than Morgan himself as he'd held Pearce tied to a chair in that abandoned house. Things would have gotten worse for Pearce, too, had Mark not interrupted Morgan and saved him. Now, Pearce caught himself rubbing his shoulder and lowered his hand as Bata spread out on the table black-and-white photographs of four different crime scenes.

Shock sent cold, sharp needles through Pearce, and for a frightening moment, he feared he might pass out, his eyes widening as the images dredged up long-buried memories.

"As you can see, we have a serial killer on our hands," Bata said. "The positioning of the bodies. The way in which the victims were murdered. A few other similar details. All of this points to one killer."

Pearce's mouth was dry. He had questions, quite a few questions. They snapped inside him like live wires, but he couldn't seem to focus enough to decide which to ask first. It was like trying to pick one conversation out of a crowd of people all shouting at once.

"Agent Pearce?" Harris asked, his tone much quieter, softer than Pearce was used to. "Are you all right?"

AD Harris's question and tone brought Pearce back to himself. He swallowed, nodded to Harris, and looked at Bata. "How did he kill them?"

"Strangled."

Pearce's stomach rolled, and the chicken wrap he’d had for lunch seemed on the verge of coming up.

He fought through it and asked, "Why come to me about this? I'm sure you have well-qualified agents in Detroit who can take this on. Why me?"

Bata gestured to the photographs, and Pearce could not keep his gaze from dropping to them again. Four men, all apparently in their early twenties, lying on their backs, arms stretched out to the sides, heads turned to the right. Now that Bata had explained they had been strangled, Pearce could see a dark-colored scarf tied tight around their throats and the dark shadow of bruising just visible above.

"As you can see," Bata said. "There have been four victims. In the right palm of each, a small slip of folded paper was found. A few words were written on each note, but it wasn't until this last victim, found two weeks ago, that we were able to decipher the entire message."

"What was the message?" Pearce asked.

Bata extracted a small notebook from his inner suit coat pocket and consulted it. "The first note read WAITING FOR YOU. The second read COME FIND ME. The next read STILL WAITING, and this last message read, JEREMY GREENE IS THE KEY."

"Fuck me," Pearce said and turned away. He paced the room, fists clenched, teeth grinding together.

Bata's tone was quiet, referential, as he said, "Jeremy Greene was your stepbrother. He was murdered when you were very young."

Pearce nodded. "Yes. But no note was left with him that I ever heard about."

Bata shook his head. "There was no note. And, just to be clear, I do not think this killer we are seeking is the same man who murdered your stepbrother. These murders were committed with one goal in mind: to get attention, specifically yours."

"Jesus Christ," Pearce said and ran his hands over his face. Exhaustion and guilt fell across him like a heavy cloak. Four men had lost their lives just to get his attention. What kind of fucking psychopath did that?

"This is Robert Morgan asking you to come back to Detroit," Bata said. "He wants to finish what was started between the two of you at the beginning of the year."

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